Photo by ASHLI BARRETT/Advocate Staff

Hagel thriving at higher level

It’s an age-old debate, an ongoing tussle between junior A hockey supporters and promoters of the major junior game. The numbers don’t lie — Western Hockey League players advance to the pro ranks at a quicker rate than those at the lower level, and, as the argument goes, are therefore beneficiaries of a superior product. At the same time, there are junior A fans who insist that the product they watch is not inferior to the major junior game, at least in entertainment value.

It’s an age-old debate, an ongoing tussle between junior A hockey supporters and promoters of the major junior game.

The numbers don’t lie — Western Hockey League players advance to the pro ranks at a quicker rate than those at the lower level, and, as the argument goes, are therefore beneficiaries of a superior product. At the same time, there are junior A fans who insist that the product they watch is not inferior to the major junior game, at least in entertainment value.

Regardless, the fact remains there are numerous junior A skaters who are capable of playing at the next level, and WHL teams are only too happy to latch on to those who are willing to make the jump.

The Red Deer Rebels have been willing participants in the raid of junior A players over the years, with one such example being current roster player Brandon Hagel, a Morinville native who this season played three games with the Whitecourt Wolverines of the AJHL — scoring once and adding two assists — before joining the WHL squad.

The six-foot, 165-pound winger had already attracted the attention of U.S. college scouts, but decided that he could fast-track his pro aspirations by suiting up with the 2016 Memorial Cup tournament host Rebels.

“It was tough because I’ve talked to a few (U.S.) colleges this year,” Hagel said after signing with the Rebels in September. “I wasn’t sure which route to take, so it was a tough decision. But I think I made the right one for myself.

“We’re going to have a good team this year and obviously, for myself, it’s going to be good as well with all the exposure and the Memorial Cup … everything should be good.”

Hagel, of course, hasn’t missed a beat while skating at the higher level. Through 43 games, the 17-year-old is the Rebels sixth-leading scorer with eight goals and 31 points in 43 games.

And yet, he’s not the lone example of the junior A skater who has jumped to the Rebels without any previous major junior experience.

The prime specimen in this particular scenario came aboard in 2002 after leading the BCHL in scoring the season previous and being selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the fourth round of the NHL entry draft.

Matt Ellison was not only an instant hit with the Rebels, he led the team in scoring during his lone winter in Red Deer, firing 40 goals and recording 96 points in 72 regular-season games, then collecting 20 points (7g,13a) in 22 playoff contests.

He went on to appear in 43 NHL games — during which he put up 14 points, including three goals — before taking his act overseas. Ellison currently plays with Minsk Dynamo of the Kontinental League and helped the Canadian team win the recent Spengler Cup tournament.

The Rebels have welcomed other junior A players who previously competed in the WHL, with the likes of Rhyse Dieno, Carter Smith, Kraymer Barnstable, Justin Taylor — all of whom contributed to various degrees — and Scott Feser coming to mind.

The list of former seasoned junior A players who jumped to the Rebels without experiencing the major junior game includes:

• Dustin Moore — The Red Deer product was a 24-goal scorer with the Olds Grizzlys in 2004-05 and collected 35 points (16-19) in 46 games with the AJHL squad the following season before joining the Rebels in October of 2006.

The rugged winger contributed 20 goals and 28 assists in 64 regular-season games and another six points (4-2) during the club’s brief playoff run.

Nick Charif — Edmonton native Charif jumped from the Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL to the Rebels in 2013 and helped solidify the club’s blueline.

A rearguard with an offensive touch, Charif scored three goals and added 10 helpers in 57 games during the 2013-14 WHL season and produced a goal and seven assists in eight games the following campaign before being dealt to the Spokane Chiefs.

Shaden Moore — Another Edmonton product, Moore played two winters with the AJHL St. Albert Saints prior to joining the Rebels in 2004.

Moore played 46 regular-season and playoff games with Red Deer in the ‘04-05 season and another eight the next season before moving on to appear in a handful of contests with the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Calgary Hitmen. From there, he was a three-year member of the University of Alberta Golden Bears.

Nick Bell — The Innisfail product starred with the Okotoks Oilers of the AJHL for one season before being lured to the Rebels in 2009.

Bell suffered a severe ankle injury in October and missed 34 games after undergoing surgery. The defenceman’s WHL career consisted of 36 regular- and post-season games, during which he scored one goal and recorded 13 points.

He was back with Okotoks the following season and went on to play college and university hockey at Mount Royal in Calgary.

Just Posted

The future’s exciting, but also a bit scary, for Red Deer’s high school grads

Concerns about job prospects, high cost of education expressed

Blind calf finds friendship in dog in central Alberta

Heaven and Sweetpea are best buddies. Heaven, a calf who was born… Continue reading

Walk raises awareness of victims of domestic violence

Central Alberta men and boys will walk a mile in high heels… Continue reading

Speeding a ‘constant concern’ for residents, says Red Deer RCMP

Red Deer RCMP ramps up its efforts to curb speeding in the… Continue reading

Fashion Fridays: White sneakers

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Cast your votes for the Best of Red Deer

Nominations for the Best of Red Deer Readers’ Choice Awards are officially… Continue reading

Seniors: The unheard melodies

The sights and sounds around us enable us to experience our world.… Continue reading

Police find urn with ashes along bank of Red Deer River

RCMP find urn with ashes along bank of Red Deer River Red… Continue reading

North Vancouver RCMP seek skier whose pole caused brain injury to B.C. teen

VANCOUVER — A North Vancouver family is joining with RCMP to urge… Continue reading

Canadian ‘Aladdin’ star eyes diverse career championing homegrown talent

TORONTO — Canadian “Aladdin” star Mena Massoud says his wild carpet ride… Continue reading

Supreme Court will tuck into UberEats case about drivers’ benefit rights

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada will help decide whether a… Continue reading

Speech from the throne: Read the entire text outlining UCP priorities

The following is the speech from the throne, read Wednesday in the… Continue reading

Canada’s Rebecca Marino drops second-round French Open qualifying match

PARIS — Canada’s Rebecca Marino fell just short in a second-round qualifying… Continue reading

Most Read